It’s Friday and that means that is it time to pull a writing book off of my shelf for a mini book review. This week’s book is Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing. In a collection of essays with themes ranging from Buck Rogers to lists of nouns, Bradbury practically gushes his love of stories, the telling, the reading and the watching. He talks about how he wrote some of his best known stories, and who were his creative influences. But mostly he talks about love for the craft. Zest. Gusto. The things he felt were most important in a writers’ make-up.
With chapter titles such as “Run Fast, Stand Still,” “Investing Dimes,” and “Drunk and In Charge of a Bicycle,” Bradbury waxes poetic about the absolute joys of writing, that every day he leapt out of bed and exploded on the page. So many writing books talk about the effort, the work, the almost drudgery. Papa Ray, as I call him, reminds us that we are just kids comparing our imaginary friends, be they heroes, pigs, or flying suitcases.
Bradbury is a proponent of keeping lists of nouns and verbs. Just long lists, especially nouns. He includes several of his lists in the book and then explains how this or that list led to a particular story. Some stories, like “The Crowd” came from real life situations that could have been traumatizing had they not been dealt with in story, in writing.
This is the book I reach for when creativity feels drab and meaningless. A couple chapters with Papa Ray, and nouns begin to be listed in the margins. And after a few nouns, a character speaks up, and starts talking about the nouns. It’s all one can do but to type as fast as one can to keep up.
The race track
The red ball cap
The music box
The broken lamp
The grocery store
The pair of crutches